Bowls bouncing back from COVID!

21st February, 2022

At its Annual General Meeting in Leicester on Saturday 19 February, Bowls England shared its 2021 Annual Report. After a very difficult 2020 season with only 50% of clubs opening and all national & international competitions cancelled, 2021 saw the sport begin its recovery.

Annual Report 2021

With another year of significant financial loss forecast and the lockdown early in 2021 threatening the viability of the season, the sport navigated through the government roadmap and mitigated the impact of the global pandemic. 1954 affiliated clubs opened their doors, a 4% drop on 2019, and membership numbers reduced by 12%. Whilst this decline is unfortunate, Bowls England believes it is now better placed to embark on a period of participation growth with a new strategy in place and ambitious plans to capitalise on Birmingham 2022.  The recording of a £48,467 deficit for the financial year ending in 2021, £275,000 better than forecast, has also enabled Bowls England to invest more in the opportunity of a home Commonwealth Games.

Bowls England’s flagship new event, a national open weekend entitled Bowls’ Big Weekend, was a highlight of the year.

  • 700 clubs opened their doors to new participants.
  • An average of 26 new participants attended per club.
  • 60% of attendees were under 65, as the sport works hard to attract a younger, more diverse audience.
  • An effective marketing campaign engaged over 22m people across TV, radio, print and digital.

Clubs can now register their interest in hosting a Bowls’ Big Weekend event here. This will run on Friday 27 May to Sunday 29 May.

For the more competitive bowlers, the sport’s National Championships & Competitions took place for the first time since 2019, culminating in a new-look National Finals at Victoria Park, Royal Leamington Spa. The event was streamed for the first time and tickets were sold, supporting Bowls England’s strategic objective of diversifying its income streams. Entries for National Competitions end on Tuesday 1 March, so if you wish to get competitive this season, please enter by clicking here.

The England team continued its preparations for Birmingham 2022, in spite of the international travel restrictions causing events like the World Championships to be postponed.  The team for the Games was selected earlier in 2022, and you can read more about the squad here.

“Whilst 2021 was not without its challenges, we will reflect on it positively as our sport began its recovery from COVID,” Jon Cockcroft, Chief Executive of Bowls England, stated. “Credit goes to our volunteers across the country for their can-do approach to returning to play last summer.  They are the heartbeat of our sport, and it is fantastic to celebrating their huge contribution at our annual Awards event this evening.

“We are now in touching distance of Birmingham 2022, providing us with a platform to tell our story, to inspire new participants and give existing bowlers a deep, unparalleled sense of pride.  We look forward working across our sport to grab this golden opportunity.”

At the AGM, three propositions put forward by Bowls Hampshire passed. The Middleton & Johns Trophies will return to a league format in 2023. The Bowls England board had already committed to the return of a badge presentation for competitors who wish to participate, and therefore the vote on this proposition passed.

The proposition on the return of the two Championship winners’ dinners was amended and passed. Rather than two dinners, Bowls Hampshire amended its proposition to propose the staging of one dinner in November where both men & women victors are honoured. The Awards Night, which recognizes all levels of the sport, from grassroots, volunteers, competitive bowlers and the international players, will continue to take place in February.

Following elections last year, member-elected board members Adam Tanner, Margaret Docherty, Stephen Hemsley and Foster Johnson will all serve another term on the Bowls England board. After an open application process, the Board has appointed Anna Molony and Jo Doust as Independent Directors. Anna, who has been reappointed, will now take on the position of Senior Independent Director.

Tony Ellis (East) & Kath Lloyd (West) were formally ratified as members of the Management Audit & Review Committee, whilst Jayne Christie & John Ottaway (both East) were confirmed as International Selectors. MAR currently has vacant positions for the North & South, and any interested parties should contact Helen Slimm. Similarly, there are some International Selector positions available – please contact Alistair Hollis.

The AGM also saw the investiture of the new Presidential team. Immediate Past President Paul Robson, President Terri Keen, Senior Vice President Deepak Tanna and new Junior Vice President David King-Taylor are the team for 2022.

2022 is a Golden Opportunity for our sport, with a home Commonwealth Games providing a platform to increase our profile, get more players on the green and safeguard our future. You can read more about our plans here.


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